Trailed with much fanfare, Paul Westwood’s debut thriller, Skin in the Game, is directed by Clemmie Reynolds, most recently assistant director alongside Lucy Bailey on the Agatha Christie who-dun-what-and-why-to-whom Witness for the Prosecution. Add to this an invitation to compare Westwood’s play with the work of Irvine Welsh and Philip Ridley and expectations are inevitably high. Does Skin in the Game meet them?
At a little over an hour, the action of Skin in the Game plays out briskly. In a slightly over-lengthy opening scene, bristling with menace, the audience is introduced to two brothers, Danny and Jamie, played respectively by Charlie Allen and Westwood himself. Something is clearly wrong but, as with the best thrillers, it is at this stage not clear what that something might be.
At exactly the right moment the tempo of simmering violence and deceit is broken by the arrival of the brothers’ motormouth sister, Kathryn O’Reilly, who adds some welcome levity. The tension continues to ramp up slowly towards a shocking and utterly unexpected revelation which is handled beautifully by O’Reilly and Westwood.
The play is performed without an interval and, though the ending can be anticipated as soon as the play’s structure becomes apparent – at the start of the second act if not from the programme – Westwood can certainly write and, as a contemporary thriller set in the context of the challenges faced by real people in modern Britain, Skin in the Game ticks all the right boxes. The three principals are all strong, especially Allen, and while Greenwich Theatre is a fairly airless space, the cast, the script and Reynolds’ direction ensure the audience is on the edge of their seats, even on one of the hottest days of the year. However, the script does need a little tightening – one actor produces an item that simply cannot appear in a play without careful foreshadowing – and the attention to detail could also be sharper needing a little more care to be taken with the sound and to the “tidying up” of the set at the end of Act 1.
Skin in the Game marks Paul Westwood’s full-length debut as a playwright. He is certainly a name to watch.
Review by Louis Mazzini
Nechells, Birmingham, Summer, 2019.
The family flat isn’t selling.
Dad’s been moved into a care home that needs paying for.
Three estranged siblings meet to fix the problem.
But the reality of the situation is more terrifying than any of them can imagine…
Infused with the spirit of Philip Ridley and Irvine Welsh, Paul Westwood’s debut full-length play is a blistering new thriller that lifts the lid on gambling addiction, survival on the edges of society and confronts what happens when you lie to those who know you best.
Skin in the Game
a JIH production in association with Greenwich Theatre
Writer Paul Westwood
Director Clemmie Reynolds
Cast Charlie Allen (Danny), Kathryn O’Reilly (Michelle), Paul Westwood (Jamie) and David Whitworth (Phillip)
Ages 14+ (contains very strong language)
Performance at Greenwich Theatre
23rd July 2019
Old Red Lion Theatre
418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ
20 August – 15 September 2019